As the world becomes more aware of the many risks associated with rising global temperatures, many of us feel the need to make serious changes in the way we live. While it's a great start to make small changes to every day living such as riding your bike to work or to taking shorter showers, there are some other major waste culprits that we need to look at as well.
Events such as weddings typically require a lot of resources so they have the potential to create a ton of waste and pollution.
The Green Bride Guide states that the average wedding produces 400 lbs of garbage and 63 tons of CO2. With an estimated 2.5 million weddings per year, that is about 1 billion lbs of trash and as many emissions as approximately 4 people would produce in a year, in just one single day. And those numbers are most likely on the rise when you look at what today's weddings look like. It's more important than ever for couples getting married to really think about the footprint of their special day. Especially when there are so many green alternatives out there.
An eco-friendly wedding is one that strives to reduce negative impacts on the environment wherever possible.
By choosing green alternatives to a variety of elements including the stationery, food, venue and even jewelry, couples can drastically reduce their carbon footprint and still celebrate their love in style. Not only will this benefit the planet, but it also spreads an eco-friendly message about the importance of sustainability and can encourage others to do the same.
If you love the idea of planning an eco-friendly wedding but don't know where to start, we've created a guideline that features the main environmental culprits with smart solutions to reduce them. We encourage you to share this information with all of your other engaged friends so they too can plan an eco-friendly wedding.
Your Eco-friendly Wedding Guide!
(Text-based version + more information about the problems follow this graphic.)
Wedding Stationery + Favors
From invitations to menus and programs, the amount of paper products used in a wedding adds up. Glossy paper and packages aren't generally made from recycled materials and some can even contain elements that are harmful to the environment. Not to mention how wedding favors are often left behind, are single-use items, or may even get tossed in the trash shortly after the event.
Solution: Choose all-natural wedding favors and paper products made from recycled materials as well as try to reduce the number of printed pieces you need. For example) use one menu per table instead of one for each place setting. Use recycled paper products, email correspondence when possible or try seed paper wedding invitations. For favors try seedlings, potted plants, plantable wedding favors made from seed paper or make a donation in honor of your guests.
Food + Beverages
It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate making your meal a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Food that travels long distances generally uses more preservatives as well and can even be gassed to “ripen” in some cases.
Solution: Choose in-season local and/or organic foods for your menu and make sure your caterer knows that is important to you. This will reduce emissions caused by transportation and support local farmers. You can also take this one step further and choose local breweries and wineries for beverage service. In addition, be conscious of portion sizes and think about how many courses you actually need for guests to enjoy themselves. The more varieties of food you offer, the more resources that will be used.
Travel + Transportation
One of the biggest causes of pollution is vehicles. Since everything from food to out-of-town guests will require transportation to get to your event, a large amount of emissions can be emitted.
Solution: Reduce your carbon footprint by scaling down the guest list. While it might be great to have the extended family together on your big day, you can cut down on waste from food, garbage, transportation and more by simply inviting fewer people. You could also arrange shuttles or car pools for guests as well as have the reception and ceremony in the same place to reduce driving time.
With the combination of lighting, heating, improper recycling methods and even the materials needed to maintain the space, planning an event at an environmentally irresponsible venue or hotel can create a ton of waste and pollution.
Solution: Choose places that are made from sustainable materials, use low energy lighting, heating and/or electricity, use energy efficient windows, use solar panels and/or use certified organic materials for bedding and towels. Also, be sure that recycling is readily available.
From the wrapping paper to the packaging itself, wedding gifts produce a lot of waste. Even the gifts themselves can be made from harmful materials or shipped in from far off destinations. And what if you receive something you aren't particularly fond of that didn't include a receipt? Then the waste is all for nothing.
Solution: Choose eco-friendly, local items for your registry and ask for gifts to be unwrapped to save paper or request presentation to avoid waste altogether.
According to Brilliant Earth, gold mining causes global mercury pollution, pollutes rivers with sulfuric acid, ravages landscapes and contributes to the destruction of the landscapes. In addition to the dangerous work for employees, modern gold mining creates 20 tons of toxic waste for every gold ring. The business of diamond mining isn't any better. Irresponsible diamond mining practices have caused soil erosion, deforestation and in extreme cases, it has caused entire ecosystems to collapse.
Solution: You can make eco-friendly choices by choosing recycled stones and metals, vintage pieces or responsibly sourced diamonds and gold for your wedding jewelry. There is even such a thing as wooden wedding bands if you want something different.
Décor + Lighting
The lighting and decor you choose will help set the mood for your wedding. However, creating a swoon-worthy ambiance can require a lot of energy. Décor pieces also often single-use or made with brand new materials, which is wasteful.
Solution: To get the mood just right, opt for solar lights or candles, both of which require absolutely no energy. Just be sure if you are choosing candles, they are properly protected and placed to avoid fire hazards. Where electric lighting is used, make sure it uses LEDs to be energy efficient. For décor, choose vintage pieces or re-use items to create upcycled decorations.
Looking for some inspiration? Check out this post for 10 Wedding Upcycles To Save You Money and Reduce Waste.
Few things make a wedding more beautiful than blooming flowers. Unfortunately, most wedding flowers are imported and have to be treated with pesticides and fungicides. These chemicals are not only harmful to you, but to the planet as well. The additional emissions created from the transportation itself will also contribute to your carbon footprint.
Solution: Choosing a local florist and opting for native seasonal flowers is the best way to go green when it comes to floral arrangements. You can also avoid tossing them right after the wedding to get more life out of them with these 10 Ways To Preserve And Reuse Wedding Flowers.
If you love the idea of planning an eco-friendly wedding, you will love having the Eco-friendly Wedding Checklist while you plan your big day. In this stylish free printable, you'll find reminders, tips and green alternatives for a variety of important elements of your wedding like invitations, food, venue, rings, attire, transportation and much more! All you have to do is download the PDF, print it and you'll be all set with a fantastic checklist that will help you make the most sustainable choices. If you'd rather save the paper, we've included all of the points in this Eco-friendly Weddings Checklist post for you to check out.